In a world where billions are dying of hunger it is sometimes difficult to have sympathy for people with eating disorders. But like Drew discovered in his post “Decisions. Decisions?” there is much more to this story than bad personal choices.
Our food system is disordered, and it is making us sick. There is an overabundance of cheap, processed, fattening food and a depreciation of fresh food prepared at home. Most of us are getting fatter, but our cultures worship of thinness continues to rise. I’d like you to think about all the advertisements you see in a day. How many are advertising food and how many are advertising beauty and/or weight loss products?
I’d also argue that our disordered agricultural practices are contributing to the problem because this is the source of our access to massive quantities of cheap “food like substances” (to quote my man Michael Pollan). In all of human history we have never been able to obtain so much food with so little exertion, and now we are dealing with consequences that we could not have anticipated.
What was going on with agriculture between the mid-19th century and now? Industrialization changed our world and our people in ways we could not have predicted. Suddenly we were out of the fields and working in factories and cities. Life expectancy increased and our access to food improved, but it seems we lost our connection to that food with each passing generation. Check out this information I found from the U.S. census: U.S. rural labor was 60% of the total workforce in 1850, reduced to less than 40% in 1900, 15% in 1950, and 2% since 1975. I learned in school that correlation is not necessarily causation, but I can’t help but think that this “disconnect” from our sources of food has played a bigger role in the eating disorder epidemic than it has been given credit for. Continue reading →
My first Food Studies paper has been published in the 2010-2011 issue of Portal, the yearly academic publication from the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. It is a simple account of my recent study abroad experience in Brazil. It is so interesting how eating pizza with my host family made me aware of so many social issues in their society and lives. This, is how I study food.
Eating Pizza in Brazil: poverty and other social issues
The entire world eats Pizza, or something that resembles it, such as seafood pizza in Japan or the pizza with fruit Brazilians eat here in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. At LLI- LAS, my concentration is officially Portuguese, but my true focus lies in food studies. Normally, a student like myself, who is interested in learning about pizza, would probably focus on the food itself: the toppings, the sauces, or the crust. However, in my studies, I learn about larger social issues through my personal experiences and interest in food. I am currently studying abroad in Brazil and have had the honor of living with an amazing host family of four: father, mother, and two sons, ages 22 and 16. The other night on the way home from an event, we decided to get a pizza for dinner. I did not realize how different the whole process was going to be from the “American” way of getting a pizza. The experience revealed many social and economic issues related to poverty. The following story about eating pizza with my new Brazilian family reveals a deeper social context, beyond gastronomy, in the way pizza is obtained, received, and consumed. Enjoy.
There are certain books and that are just perfect for Food Studies. I am slowly making a list of ones that I think are essential for students interested in studying food. These books seem to come into my life just at the right time. My new companion, “Bringing it to the Table” by Wendell Berry, was love at first sight. After reading the first chapter “Nature as Measure”, Berry’s ideas started to connect the pieces in my life. In combination with my first garden project, it is helping me start a new relationship with Nature, education, work, mom, the women of my life.
My love for productivity seems to be an addiction. Several people have told me that my lust to accomplish many things quickly and efficiently is a result of capitalistic culture. I often feel that I am behind in life and I need to study harder and experience more. I work hard just to work more. The demand for “more” is constantly going up, at the cost of quality and joy in my life and culture. As an American, I notice the effort to produce and buy more food at cheaper prices; if money controls our decisions then money is our liberty. Regardless economic wealth, I feel security in surplus, maximized time, the big stack of pancakes, a pantry filled with food, an alcohol collection (even if I don’t drink), papers published, books read… to horde, and do the things I want to do.
Take Popular Song and Write about the food elements. I got the idea from Warren Balasco’s Food Studies book, “Food: the key concepts“.
I love rap music. In rap culture, a common food reference is the lollipop, a phallic representation of a penis. Women licking or sucking on lollipops is a common erotic image in rap music videos and magazines. Rapper, Lil Wayne’s song “Lollipop” is full all about this sexual metaphor. It became a successful hit because of its play on words (wrapper = rapper), a common manipulative technique used in rap music (another reason why I love rap, the linguistics). Some people might define this song as grammatically –and morally– incorrect, but I don’t look at it that way because to me it is a way people communicate; it is a culture, different from mine, that I enjoy learning about. Why is music that expresses another demography considered incorrect?